Our goal is to grow grapes using low environmental impact management. Success with organic management starts with variety selection, and so, in 2019 we began transitioning our vineyard to a new variety of grape by grafting a variety of grapes called Itasca onto our existing vines. Itasca is highly disease resistant and makes Chardonnay quality white wine. Grafting is a labor-intensive process, and it will take us 3 to 5 years to complete the transition.
We have two major hurdles in the vineyard currently. First, we need a tractor to manage our vines effectively. The tractor must be narrow enough to fit down our 9-foot rows and powerful enough to operate our sprayer. The second major hurdle is a beetle called the rose chafer, which eats flower buds, eliminating a potential harvest. This year, we were able to stave them off to a limited degree with organic pesticides, allowing us a small yield, and in 2020, we will be experimenting with new methods to rescue our crop, including mass trapping, beneficial nematodes, and new organic sprays.
This October we harvested 500 lbs of grapes to make experimental batches of wine in collaboration with Island Orchard Cider. With a record cool summer, the grapes did not reach their full potential — the brix was low (measure of sugar) and the acid was high (not a favorite for winemakers!). We are still pleased to have gotten a small harvest!